Review: The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris

PiecesIn this richly emotional novel, Kristina McMorris evokes the depth of a mother’s bond with her child, and the power of personal histories to echo through generations…

Two years have done little to ease veterinarian Audra Hughes’s grief over her husband’s untimely death. Eager for a fresh start, Audra plans to leave Portland for a new job in Philadelphia. Her seven-year-old son, Jack, seems apprehensive about flying—but it’s just the beginning of an anxiety that grows to consume him.

As Jack’s fears continue to surface in recurring and violent nightmares, Audra hardly recognizes the introverted boy he has become. Desperate, she traces snippets of information unearthed in Jack’s dreams, leading her to Sean Malloy, a struggling US Army veteran wounded in Afghanistan. Together they unravel a mystery dating back to World War II, and uncover old family secrets that still have the strength to wound—and perhaps, at last, to heal.

Intricate and beautifully written, The Pieces We Keep illuminates those moments when life asks us to reach beyond what we know and embrace what was once unthinkable. Deftly weaving together past and present, herein lies a story that is at once poignant and thought-provoking, and as unpredictable as the human heart.” – Publisher Summary

The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris is a tale of two eras, and two families, joined together by one dark history. With detailed, in-depth research, McMorris brings to us the frightening period of World War II in both London and the U.S., while also opening our eyes to the often overlooked occurrence of Nazi spies infiltrating the United States. Most of us are under the impression that the continental U.S. remained largely untouched our enemies  of WWII; however in The Pieces We Keep, McMorris lays out the truth for us in a manner so clear that it is frightening to realize how close we came to danger without ever knowing about it.

In telling her tale, McMorris employs the nearly too-oft-used method of two narrators/two time periods plot device in a manner that is one of the best I have experienced. The flow between narrators/time periods is nearly seamless; I would be hard-pressed to find another novel in which this method has been so skillfully employed. The story itself, however, was somewhat predictable and a little bit “out there” for my tastes. Audra is a single mother whose son, Jack, is having night terrors. His therapist suggests that he may be experiencing memories from a past life. Audra’s search to resolve Jack’s issues brings them into a friendship with an U.S. Army veteran who is experiencing his own issues with memories.  Meanwhile, back in time during WWII, Vivian has left her first love, Isaak, behind in London and moved back to the U.S. where she returns to her daily life there. She falls in love with Gene and gives up on ever seeing Isaak again – until he steps out of the shadows one night, with a story to tell that stretches her imagination beyond belief. Jack becomes the common denominator between these two stories, linking them in a way that is somewhat fascinating, yet at the same time, somewhat expected and fantastical. While McMorris provides readers with a direction to follow and allows us to form our own conclusions about where we are going, it is not difficult to figure out the direction we are headed in.

I found The Pieces We Keep to be somewhat monotonous and, as mentioned previously, predictable, yet the storyline from WWII was fascinating to me and did redeem the tale quite a bit for me. The present-day storyline makes it simply too simple for us to ascertain the general direction of things, and it dampened any driving interest for me. I will say that McMorris did weave into the tale a few subtle twists that did surprise me here and there, and kept me from completely scrapping Audra’s storyline. While I still found Audra to be somewhat “blah”, I found Vivian to be highly personable and sympathetic; her character and storyline truly did both steal the show and save the novel from mediocrity.

The Pieces We Keep by Kristina McMorris is available for purchase as of Tuesday, November 26th! Buy it, read it, love it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Kensington Books {via NetGalley}

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